How do I make sure people understand my requests

Reflecting on past glitches bear some pros and cons. On the one hand we can acknowledge the long way we have come, that we have learned to cope with some of our old challenges and celebrate we are no longer making some of the mistakes we used to make. On the other hand, in hindsight, enumerating all the times we screwed it up in the past can make us blush in guilt and shame and makes us sigh: “Damn, If I only knew it before”.

This is my case when looking back at the way I would express my requests to people. The way I would (not) let them know how certain actions, words, behaviours made me feel and also what I needed not to feel that way anymore. I would expect people to read my mind, telling myself sentences like: “It’s clear right? They know how I feel, they know what I need, they know what they have to do. If they don’t do it, then they don’t care about me”. How many self-fulfilling prophecies I created. 

It has taken 40+ years to finally find the right way to express my requests out there clearly, positive and in concrete action language. A language that allows validation of my own needs while respecting the needs of clarity I owe to others. Clarity yes..because let’s admit it, how often are our requests expressed clearly?

Example, If I need to spend more time with partner, I might ask: “Can you spend less time at work, I don’t like that”. So how clear is the message? Am I perhaps taking for granted that my partner understands my request? Because the lack of clarity here could mean that my partner does listen to me, spend less time at work and use that time working out at the gym or with friends at the sauna or in watching the Wimbledon final. Hence, we still have not gotten what we need. And not because of lack of understanding but more likely because the request was vague.

In fact when we talk about clarity, it’s a good practice to remember a fundamental aspect: clarity starts in us first. How can it be clear to others if it is not clear to us first? 

It’s not easy to make our requests in a way that would enrich our lives. We have simply not been educating in doing so. Hence, we stay vague, go around the core of the topic, assume we have said it all, assume people have the crystal ball. So how to do it? Here are some guidelines:

-be clear about what you need and why

-feel responsible for what you need and what you ask for

-accept the fact that people cannot read our minds

-avoid vague, abstract or ambiguous phrasing

-use positive action language by stating what you are requesting rather what you are not

-be careful of the difference between requests and demands (the first seeks for connection and understanding, the second for blame and punishment)

My dear, When you spend so much time at work I feel lonely. And I want to spend more time with you. Can you work less and be home earlier?”.

When in doubt, remember the rule: The clearer we are about what we want back, the more likely we are to get it.

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